Monday, August 29, 2011

New Luxury Cinemas -- Like a Living Room, So Why Leave Yours?

Last week, with great anticipation, I took my two kids to the new luxury cinema complex in Del Mar -- called Cinepolis. I had heard great things about this completely new luxury cinema experience which displaced the old traditional multi-plex on that site that served us well for years. If you are not familiar with this new cinema concept, click on this link to see pictures.

As we walked in, an audible gasp flowed from my kids -- "this is sooooo cool!" And, indeed it is. Instead of the traditional multi-plex lobby, now there is a full bar right along side the popcorn. Instead of hot dogs, you can buy sushi. On one of the walls, a massive big screen video screen was showing a baseball game. Apparently, this is for the parents, who can now deposit their kids to watch a movie and sit at the bar to watch their favorite game. And, in the lobby, the new luxury Lazy Boy-like reclining leather seats that are in the cinemas are proudly on display so that the kids can try them out and "ooh" and "ahh." All of this, of course, is a bid for cinemas to attract a different clientele -- those willing to shell out significantly more (about $20 for adults and $17 for kids) to watch a movie inside.

After our pre-cinema dinner in the lobby, finally, we entered the hallowed grounds of the new cinemas themselves to watch the very un-luxury-like movie, "Smurfs" (which perhaps is the single most painful kids movie I have ever experienced). Another "soooo cool!" spewed from the mouths of my babes as we stepped inside and took our places at our 3 reclining leather seats (which, strangely, are configured only in groups of "two", meaning that one of us three were always separated from the other -- disconnected actually -- during the movie itself). And, table service! Yes, simply push a button and a friendly server stops by to take your order -- even during the movie! As the movie began, all three of us felt "this is the future of going to the movies!" Essentially, this new cinema complex had perfected the art of making "going to the movies" as comfortable as watching a movie in your living room and on the big screen!

But, as the movie painfully went on, this luxury experience lost its movie "experience" for me completely. At the end of the day -- for me -- why go out to enjoy (and pay for!) a "living room" experience when you can do the same in the luxury of your own home a la Netflix or Amazon? We have our comfy couches at home. We have our big screen. We have our surround sound. We have our kitchen right there for snacks. We have our bathroom right down the hall. And we can pause anytime (or stop the "Smurfs" movie completely and move on to the next if we want!). Ultimately, for me, this new luxury cinema experience lost the very heart and soul of a primary reason I go to the movies in the first place -- the energy and anticipation of watching a movie collectively with others! After all, going to the movies has always been one of the last great communal human experiences. We laugh together, we tear up together (although I won't admit it).

At Cinepolis, you feel alone -- it is sooooo quiet before the movie. You can hear no munching of popcorn around you. And, although that sounds great, it ain't so great when you think about it. Strangely, the only time you realize there are others around you is when someone rings for the server to bring some more popcorn (or a cocktail in the 21+ only cinemas) -- and, then, it is incredibly distracting as the server walks right in front of you to get to that other person!

Oh, and one more thing, the cost of this experience. I'll tell you this, the cinema's mission was accomplished for us! Here's a breakdown of how much this "living room-like" experience cost for me that night --

(1) 3 tickets (1 adult, 2 children) -- $54
(2) pre-movie food & drinks (sushi roll, mini-burgers, one drink) -- $40
(3) in-theatre snacks (popcorn, quesadilla, one water) -- $30

Grand total? About $125! This is likely more than 2X what the three of us would have paid in our UN-luxury-like earlier multi-plex experience!

VERDICT? Cinepolis is cool, very cool. It looks very very nice. It feels very very nice. But, it is so cool that I now will stay at home if I want a living room movie experience. I like my home --it is cool enough. And, I'd rather use that money for school supplies .... (today is my kids' first day of school after all) ....